On tonight’s premiere of Beauty and the Geek, (8 p.m., The CW), geekdom goes co-ed. The show’s standard mating game of socially awkward male genius meets ditzy female hottie gets a twist this season, when self-proclaimed scholar-for-life Nicole Morgan comes on as the series’ first female geek and vies for the attention of Sam Horrigan, a weight-lifting, party-loving L.A. club promoter. Fans of the show’s first three seasons, worry not — there will still be nine male geeks doing their best to win over nine beauties. But with Morgan and Horrigan thrown into the mix, on-set chemistry could be decidedly different!
With impeccable geek credentials, Morgan has no qualms about being the inaugural female nerd. Her elite academic career started at St. Ignatius College Preparatory School in San Francisco, continued through both the California Institute of Technology and the University of Southern California, and now finds her at Tufts University, where the 25-year-old is pursuing a master’s degree in musicology. There’s no end in sight, either: Morgan said she hopes to get a PhD in music theory and become a university professor.
In a rare moment when Morgan wasn’t studying or in classes, she caught up with EW.com to fill us in on all things geek.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you get involved with the show?
NICOLE MORGAN: They actually found me on MySpace. I talk a lot about academics on my profile. That is what interests me, so they could see I was ensconced in that world.
So, can we assume you think of yourself as a geek?
I do. I might define it a bit differently than other people. I think it’s someone who’s very focused on a specific thing, and for me it’s academics. Traditionally there’s this sense of geeks having social awkwardness and no fashion sense. Those are often part of it because when you’re so focused on one thing, you don’t pay attention to everyday, normal things.
Are you like that?
I’m like a lot of geeks in that it takes me a longer time than the average person to warm up to someone. I come across nerdy right off the bat and awkward probably.
What are your geekiest interests?
I’m a huge fan of Star Wars and Star Trek. I’ve probably seen every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I love Wesley Crusher [Wil Wheaton]. He was my main crush when I was a little girl. One of my main hobbies is music. I’ve been taking classical voice lessons for about 10 years. Some people consider that geeky.
Being that you’re into music, did you ever go to band camp?
No, but I was president of my school’s California Scholarship Federation. I was also president of the math club. I was in choir. I was in a bell-ringing choir. Looking back on high school, I’m not sure that I did a whole lot. It was just schoolwork. I took a lot of AP classes, I was always in the sciences.
Growing up, did you always think of yourself as a geek?
I was a goody two shoes. I was always trying to follow the rules. Still, at the beginning of every term, I obsess over homework assignments. If my notes aren’t neat I’ll start them over again. I was always the student who wanted to help the teachers set up in class. I just loved being around school. Like right now I live in the library; I spend five hours a day in the music library. I feel like life revolves around school. That’s why I want to teach eventually. It’s just the place to be for me.
NEXT PAGE: ”As a girl geek I definitely have a different way of relating to guys. I notice that on the show. I don’t do flirty or cutesy things. If anything, I like to assert my independence”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Has being so academic ever gotten in the way of romance?
NICOLE MORGAN: I think so. As a girl geek I definitely have a different way of relating to guys. I notice that on the show. I don’t do flirty or cutesy things. If anything, I like to assert my independence. Since you’re constantly judged on your intelligence, you don’t ever want to take a step back and look inferior. You’re always trying to assert yourself. I think in some sense that changes how I act with guys. One thing I wanted to learn on the show was how not to be seen as the smart classmate or the kid sister.
Being the first female ”geek” on the show, do you consider yourself an ambassador for female geeks nationwide?
Yeah, and I was a little bit worried about that because it’s a lot of weight on one girl’s shoulders. Hopefully they’ll think I do a good job representing them. There’s a large array of geekiness and you see that in the guys on the show. You can have nine guy geeks and they’re all very different and geeky at different things, but I have to do it all!
Are you into girly stuff too?
Not really. I don’t keep up on fashion trends or read fashion magazines. Every once in a while I might like a romantic comedy, but my top movies to see are sci-fi or fantasy or horror.
Is it possible for girls to balance geek and chic?
I think so. I knew a few girls at Caltech who were very smart but were athletic and would wear cute clothes, too. Those girls blur the definition of geek, because if it’s based on intelligence, sure, they’re geeks, but they’re more well rounded.
That sounds like a small demographic at a school that’s 70 percent male.
Because of that, being on the show wasn’t that strange to me. I’m used to being around all the guy geeks. It’s normal for me.
Did you fit in with the beauties on the show, or hang with the guys more?
A lot of the time I was one of the guys. At first they were trying to get the measure of me and see what I was. I definitely tried to spend time with the beauties, but I felt much more comfortable with the guy geeks.
Let’s talk about the show. What was your ”beauty” like?
Sam is a club promoter, so he’s very much in the L.A. scene. He’s one of those guys who tans himself a lot! Toward the end, when I got to know him better, he broke my stereotypes. By looking at him, I expected him to be lackadaisical, uncaring, out for a good time. But he does care and by the end of it we got really close. We knew a lot about each other. It was interesting to bond with someone that normally I might not have even talked to or known.
Can you tell us if you found romance?
I would say that having a male beauty in the house definitely spices things up a bit.
Are you happy with the outcome?
Definitely. It was a great experience. To this day, my friends are still seeing things and saying, ”You know, you’re a bit different now.” They’ve noticed the way I dress, I’ve tried a few new things. In how I handle myself, I have a bit more confidence now. I’ve been making more of an effort to go out and do social things. I’ve learned how to be a bit girlier. I learned you don’t always have to be the top of the pack. I know I’m smart, I don’t have to act it all the time.
What did Sam teach you?
When I’m doing things I think, ”Well, what would Sam do?” I’ve still got a ways to go, but the process continues when you go home and you try to adapt it to your everyday life.
It seems okay these days to be a little nerdy. Half of pop culture revolves around what used to considered super geeky. Why do you think that is?
In some sense it’s about people in society getting more comfortable with different niches. Certainly, we’re less restricted than in the Victorian era. We’re facing different things. You can be gay and be public about it. You can be a geek and be public about it. We’re learning to love everyone for who they are, and laughing sometimes. Because sometimes it is funny.